Past issues of Thermal


THE WRIGHT STUFF Photos and words by Ron Ballard

Air Pageant at Narromine
Having noticed an article in AOPA magazine earlier this year about the construction of a replica of the original Wright Flyer in Narromine by a group lead by Eric and Keith Hayden, I resolved to be there to see the inaugural flight of this unique machine.


Keith Hayden (Eric’s’ father) is well known at Pipers as a regular instructor at the annual maintenance course and an old friend or our inimitable Keith Ginnman.

I immediately booked accommodation at a local motel and with my friend Mary Digby arrived on Friday 30 September to see this important event on Saturday 1 October at 10am. Col and Evelyn Turner were there also. Peter and Heather Hanneman flew in with their Texan together with several hundred other aircraft. 

The weather was wonderful with a light north easterly breeze. The wind was a bit strong for the planned balloon flights, but one did manage to successfully get airborne.

The Wright Flyer is not a copy of the very first machine which became airborne under its own power from wooden rails on 13 December 1903 and flown by Wilbur Wright for 105 ft achieving 15 ft height at Kill Devil Hill, Kitty Hawk North Carolina USA. It is a copy of the Mark III development of the original. The Mark III had wheels and in 1905 achieved flights of up to 24 miles and altitudes of up to 10,000ft. This machine was later manufactured under licence by Short Brothers in Ireland, becoming the world’s first aircraft manufacturer.


Dedication party with Buzz Aldrin

The Hayden team spent three years working with Sydney University aeronautical engineers compiling a faithful copy of engineering plans from rough sketches supplied by Short Brothers. These plans enabled to aeroplane to be officially built, flown and registered VH-SOP. It is the only one in the world to be able to do so and actually fly.

Wilbur and Orville Wright were bicycle manufactures from Dayton Ohio who became interested in flight. They developed a glider which was the first glider or kite in that was controlled laterally by their idea of wing warping.It first flew in October 1902. The glider achieved a flight of 620ft in 26 seconds from a sand dune at Kitty Hawk making them the
world’s first glider pilots. Then in 1903 they flew the world’s first self-launching motor glider. Something for purists to thing about - nothing new under the sun.

Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, and his wife were flown into Narromine on to officially launch the Air Pageant and especially the new Wright Flyer at 10am on Saturday morning at a dedication ceremony on the tarmac in front of a very large crowd.


Wright Flyer airscrew 8ft in diameter

The engine Rudder
I got as close as I possibly could to watch the inaugural flight by Col Pays on runway 04 at Narromine. The aeroplane made a short run before becoming airborne and rising to several feet above the runway. It appeared to me that Col had a small problem with the wing warping as he must have been experimenting with the controls. The aircraft was then pushed back for another flight which seemed to me to be better controlled.
It was a memorable occasion, with much to congratulate the team for their spectacular achievement. Especially as on the test flight on Friday the Hillman Minx engine blew a piston. The team worked throughout the night and early morning to rebuild the engine and find replacement parts.

I spoke to one project team to get some details. The Hillman engine was fairly close to the one originally one built by the Wright brothers in weight and power. The original airscrews were eight ft in diameter and of course, in 1903 the only other propeller designs were for marine engines. So they were not very efficient. I was told that the Hayden team’s copies of the original propellers cavitated at only 370 RPM so that they could only be driven below that speed. They were driven through a specially designed gearbox and bicycle chains to the airscrews, counter rotating, the propeller RPM was noticeably very slow.

The Air Pageant was a great event with over 4000 aircraft present, great aerobatic displays, rebuilt Warbirds, including my wartime RAAF service aircraft, the Curtiss P40-E Kittyhawk. Col Pays skillfully flew the P40 with a good air display after he had flown the Wright Flyer.


Wright Flyer
Ron's old aircraft, the Curtiss P40-E Kittyhawk
Here are some useful links for further reading.

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